Archive for the Bars Category

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

Posted in Bars, gone forever, nightlife, Special Places with tags , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2011 by Jenner Davis

Dear readers, I know I’ve been away for a while. And in my absence, much has changed. The beloved Eagle Tavern has closed for good, along with the Ace Cafe, both apparently falling under greed’s mighty axe. St. Mary’s pub has been sanitized to a hipster friendly sparkle, and Skip’s Tavern has been reincarnated as The Lucky Horseshoe.

If one can make a horseshoe lucky by simply stripping off the rust, shiny San Francisco should have good fortune to spare.

But I’m not so superstitious.


Party like it’s 1997!

Posted in Bars, gone forever, nightlife with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2011 by Jenner Davis

While I was digging up the graveyard last night, I found this old flier for a show at the Trocadero back in ’97. Back then it seemed like there was live music going on everywhere! I never thought SOMA would ever become such a douchebag’s paradise.

C’est la vie.

17 Reasons Why I Loved the Mission

Posted in Bars, gone forever, History, nightlife, San Francisco, Special Places with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2010 by Jenner Davis

Photo by Dave Van Hulsteyn

#1 – The Sign

#2 – Leather Tongue Video

Photo by Slowburn

#3 – The Epicenter Zone

#4 – The Chameleon (Formerly The Chatterbox)

#5 – Mission Records

#6 - Hunt’s Donuts

#7 – Live at Leeds!

Photo courtesy of MissionMission

#8 – The Vats

#9 – The Tip Top Inn

#10- Matty Luv and The Naked Cult of Hickey

#11- The  Architecture

Photo by Anomalous_A

#12 – The Farm

#13 – The Yuppie Eradication Project

#14 – The Quonset Hut

#15- Omer a.k.a Bum Jovi

#16 – Komotion

#17 – Iggy Scam

Photo by CleveburghUberAlles

Strangers When We Meet

Posted in Bars, gone forever, History, nightlife, Special Places with tags , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2010 by Jenner Davis

The first bartending job I had was at a bucket of blood in Bernal Heights called Charlie’s. Its current incarnation, Stray Bar, is a far cry from its rough-and-ready predecessor, but then again the same could be said for Bernal Heights in general.

Owned by a portly alcoholic named Charlie Bateman, Charlie’s was a haven for those not welcome at the other two bars on Bernal’s main drag, Skip’s and Wild Side West. But I found myself right at home with that less than reputable clientele, and put in a lot of hours on a stool alongside them well before I ever worked there. There are many stories I could tell you about that bar, not the least of which is how I found myself behind it.

It was 2001. I was 21 years old, and had just returned from an ill-fated trip to Philadelphia only to find myself right where I’d been before, homeless and outta work. With renewed zeal I was beatin’ the street, papering the town with resumes, looking for work anywhere I thought I could find it with no results. My friend Julia was currently working at Charlie’s, so at least I had a place to drink for free. I would pour my heart out, and she’d pour me another, right into a shot glass. Then one night, without any warning, she suddenly dropped everything, turned to me and said “Hey, Jenner! You want a job? Well here. You can have this one!” And with that, she threw her bar towel at me, and walked right the fuck out. Stunned,  I shouted after her “Wait! How much does stuff cost?!”
I stood there aghast for what felt like hours, waiting for her to walk back in and say “Ha! Gotcha!”, but she never did. Eventually the demands of the people who were now my customers snapped me out of it, so I got my ass behind the bar.

The most complicated thing anyone ever drank at Charlie’s was a Long Island Iced Tea, so I wasn’t too worried. I had decided years ago that I was gonna be a bartender one day, and I’d already been a regular customer in a few establishments well before I was legally allowed to. I paid attention, saw how my friends in the industry did their job, and now that it was my turn, I was confident I’d do just fine. So I got to work, allowing one of the more trustworthy regulars to fill me in on prices. I fell right into it, not even breaking stride when I had to remind the rather fearsome clientele that even though I was not their regular bartender, tipping was still customary. Having set them straight, I worked till closing time, made plenty tips, and called Julia’s boyfriend Chuck to come show me how to shut down the bar.
The following afternoon, back at the bar, Chuck introduced me to Charlie himself and we informed him that I would be covering Julia’s shifts in the future. With a hearty, drunken, handshake, he welcomed me to the team. It was settled: The night shifts at Charlie’s belonged to me.

For the next year or so I worked there, honing my bartending skills, cutting my teeth on one of the more nefarious bars in town. With a large axe handle kept behind the bar as my only means of regulation, I preferred not to be completely alone there late at night, but sometimes it was unavoidable. On one such quiet evening, my long solitude was at last interrupted by a Native American man of immense stature. He was HUGE. I was so struck by his resemblance to Big Chief from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” that I was quite surprised when he actually spoke.

“Gimme a Bud.” he says.

“No Problem” I reply, relived to finally have a customer. But something about him made me uneasy…

“How ya doin’ tonite?” I asked.

“Drunk.  Already been kicked outta Skip’s.”


“Fuck yeah, I just got out.”


“Outta  Prison. Just tonight.”

At this point I’m genuinely starting to get nervous, but I tried to keep the conversation going.

“What were ya in for?“


Well then, I thought, good thing I asked. I managed to get out of that situation by discreetly squeezing half a bottle of Visine into his next beer, which was on the house, of course.  Not that he would have had time to pay, since a few drops of  Visine in your drink will evacuate your bowels faster than the National Guard.  So, with Big Chief trapped on the toilet, I was able to run outside, slap the padlock on the front door, and call the cops. They got there pretty quick, and carted Big Chief back to the big house without too much trouble,  and I decided to go ahead and close early that night.

.     .     .

Charlie’s was a dive in the truest sense of the word. Outside, the facade was a  mismatch of  glass bricks and Carmel stone. Inside, the mustard yellow walls were sticky, and stained the dull brown color of tobacco, except for the ceiling, which was wallpapered with 1970’s classic rock record jackets. The place has serious personality. For entertainment there was a pool table in the back, a couple of old payout pinball machines up front,  a surprisingly well stocked Jukebox, and on the wall behind it a very large painting, with a very strange story.

"After Cassino" Harold E. Vick, 1943

It’s the only piece of Charlie’s to have survived the renovation, and it’s still up on the wall at Stray Bar today. But sadly, the small sign that was once affixed to the piece detailing its history is no longer there. Fortunately, you’ve got me to fill you in!   Painted in 1943 by a man named Harold E. Vick, the scene depicted in “After Cassino” was taken from an original sketch, which he found, singed and burned, in that very field as he was crossing it with his platoon.  Nearby were the remains of the artist and his unsuspecting subject who blew them both to bits when her plow hit a land mine.

.    .    .

The regulars were more than just customers, more than friends, they were the heart and soul of a down at heel dive bar that would prove to be no match for the changing demographic of a neighborhood we used to know. Charlie’s closed for good in 2002, and I hold the dubious honor of having worked the final shift.  It was uneventful, there was no party, no last hurrah, and barely even any customers. Only rang about 25 bucks, which I pocketed at the end of the night, then I turned off the sign, and locked up for the last time.

It was eight long years before I finally went back. There was a good crowd at Stray Bar that night, nice people, even some old friends! But to see the place so different, so shiny and classed up, it was like seeing an ex that has moved so far on with their life, that they don’t even know you anymore. And yeah, it broke my heart a little. But, to my surprise, I had a good time. The bartender was a tough chick, who took no guff, but always took the time to pour a proper pint, and the customers were a friendly and fabulous bunch who made me feel more than welcome. The crowd was a good mix of straights, dykes, drag queens and dogs, with whom I felt right at home, and when a drunken street fight  broke out at the end of the night, I found myself reassured that the down and dirty spirit of Charlie’s was still alive and well.

I have to admit it: Stray Bar has a good thing going on up there.

#11 Lonely Is An Eyesore

Posted in Bars, gone forever, San Francisco with tags , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2010 by Jenner Davis

What. The. Fuck, San Francisco.

I don’t know how the hell you did it, but i swear to god you’d better knock it off. I know, you probably think it’s pretty fucking funny to watch me suddenly realize I have NO idea where I am, and I’m sure you go to great effort to pull these little pranks, but seriously. These shape shifting shenanigans have got to stop. It seems like every time I turn around I’m further away from home.

For instance…

On the corner of 18th and Valencia, next to what was once Leather Tongue Video, there USED to be an empty lot. Not anymore.

It sprang up in under a months time, while my back was turned.  Prolific and ravenous, they attack and aggressively consume all I’ve known with the malignancy of stage three cancer. Helter skelter they feed unchecked til suddenly I’m lost in the familiar, a stranger in my homeland.

It’s messing with my mind. And it’s everywhere.

So in an effort to alleviate these feelings of displacement and alienation, I did a little counter intelligence. I will now share my findings with you.

If you notice, they’ve already gone and photo-shopped out The Retox Lounge. As if there was any question that a late night live music venue would be allowed to remain open so near the home owning elite when clearly an Ultra-Lounge or sushi bar would be such a better fit. Don’t believe me? Consider the fate of The Eagle Tavern. The famed gay rock and roll club and live venue is currently up for sale. What will become of it you ask?

Another one bites the dust.

SO fight back citizens of SF! Get loud! Get drunk! Take a dump inside Starbucks! Don’t smoke crack in the alley, smoke crack in the middle of the street!! Let make San Francisco a bad investment and a better place to drink, work and live before they make it impossible!

#10 The Day the Music Died

Posted in Bars, gone forever, Grand Opening/Closing, nightlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2010 by Jenner Davis

At midnight tonight, when the blue moon is full, we will cheer like drunken fools while the ball drops ‘till  day breaks, we will count down the seconds ’till blackouts and headaches, and we’ll try, as always, to put the worst of the last year behind us, and say hello to first day of the rest of our lives!

But first we must say our goodbyes.

Four years ago, on New Year’s Eve, a bar called Annie’s Cocktail Lounge was busy raising the roof of their Boardman alley address for the last time. Tomorrow they would pull up stakes and move the whole operation down the street to 5th and Folsom, reclaiming the home of the legendary Covered Wagon Saloon, and putting the current tenant, Cherry Bar, out of our misery. They would re-open the following month as Annie’s Social Club, and for the next four years we would not want for Rock and Roll. Up and coming local acts played along side big name touring bands, and there were so many amazing shows, so many good times.

But like all good times they went by far too fast.

Tonight is New Year’s Eve once again, and once again it’s last call for Annie’s. Only this time there will be no new incarnation, no grand re-opening, this time goodbye is just goodbye.

So come on down tonight for the last hurrah! There will be DJs, drinking, commiseration, camaraderie, and karaoke, all free of charge. It’ll be a night you’ll wish you could remember.

But to me last night was the night that mattered; the last live show.

The bands held nothing back, the crowd was electric, I was kicked in the stomach, assaulted by my peers, leapt upon by the singer of Everything Must Go and at one point I honestly thought I might die in a fire.

It was awesome.

And as Jesse Morris of the Man Cougars pointed out, if we could have packed the room like that every night, Annie’s would not have had to close.

It was a great bar, staffed by wonderful people, and owned by the Queen of Rock and Roll herself. Thank you, Annie, for keeping the local music scene alive, and may the new year bring you good fortune in all your endeavors.

We salute you.

If you’ve had a particularly awesome Annie’s experience, tell us all about it in the comments! We wanna hear your stories.

Season’s Greetings!

Posted in Bars, updates on December 23, 2009 by Jenner Davis

Do not despair, dear reader! I know it has been some time since my last post, but I have not forgotten about you!

The end of this year will mark the end of the beloved Annie’s Social Club, and I will be there for the final last call, as always.

So bear with me through the holidays, and if you can, try to make to Annie’s for their last show ever on 12/30. The Man Cougars are playing. You should be there.  But if you can’t, don’t worry. You can read all about it in my upcoming post.

Until then,  if pictures are your thing,  there’s lots of new stuff to see on my photo blog,  Lesser Gods! Like this:

Check it out!

#4 Burn, Hollywood, Burn

Posted in Bars, Grand Opening/Closing, nightlife, San Francisco, Special Places with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2009 by Jenner Davis

Though it has sat empty and forgotten for years now, the walls of 61 Golden Gate are still adorned with the signage of the late Hollywood Billiards. A peculiar perspective from beneath the feet of a giant, who, cue in hand,  moves with a confident swagger, and stands forever; captured in the midst of a single , vast stride.

hollywood billiards

The building itself stands on a wedge of street where Golden Gate is haphazardly intersected by Market, just inside the gaping mouth of the Tenderloin. Sitting towards the narrow end of the wedge, the property faces out onto both streets. So, 61 Golden Gate was the entrance to the pool hall on the second floor, and 1046 market was the entrance to the strip club downstairs that shared the building.

This wasn’t no family billiards. (Family Billiards is out on Geary, anyway.)

On a weekly basis, law enforcement tossed the place, and anyone who happened to be in there when it happened would be put up against the wall outside to be searched and humiliated in front of god and fellow criminal.  Inside, the air was heavy with bad intentions. Shadows cast themselves across torn and tattered wallpaper, steadily creeping with the ominous silence of gathering dusk, lamenting their indelible presence there. Rust colored stains of various age told a story of violence in the dingy, mauve carpet, in this sink of iniquity, haunted by a darkness ever growing. It’s memories, distant echoes of anguish.

I loved this place.

It has been closed forever since the night of December 10th, 2003, when it died a violent death.

Market S. Entrance

It was three of us on the table , and the night that would be the last for Hollywood Billards semed at first like any other. The music was bumpin , and  the placed was full, but not packed, the crowd consisting mostly of representatives for the local asian gang,  as it usually was at night.  Nothing seemed odd, I didn’t smell trouble..

In fact, I thought, as a I was chalking my cue and watching a couple of guys throw down the ro-sham-bo, (that’s rock scissors paper for those of you who didn’t grow up in the sunset), the atmosphere pretty relaxed for once! Almost.. jovial.

Suddenly doesn’t describe how things changed.  Fuck, neurons don’t fire that fast!  I had barely turned around to go back to my game, when those two started swingin.( Couldn’t help but think “Damn! Rock beats face! Ooo!”) Fisticuffs in Hollywood billiards was par for the course so we weren’t concerned til a few seconds later, when 10-15 people were goin at it, an official brawl.

From there it just got worse. As we scrambled to get outta the way, I watched the situation escalate from people throwing punches to people throwing barstools, and my pool cue, forgotten in my hand, was snatched and recruited fro the war effort.  it was then I remembered that earlier, I had given the counter man my ID, as deposit for the balls, and there was no way I was leaving without it.

It was Pandemonium. Complete chaos. And as I ‘m making my way to the counter, it gets worse. I hear from behind me, over the general din, this kree-azy kung- fu war cry that had no business coming out of anyone but Bruce fucking Lee. I could not not laugh. But when I turned and saw the ninja in question actually leap up onto a pool table , with a cue for a bo staff, and start wailing on people with the grace of  chow-yun-fat, I had to take a moment to appreciate both his skill, and the absurdity of finding beauty in all of this.

I never heard the first shot fired, but I saw when it hit the man not 5 feet in front of me . He went down Hard , clutching the back of his leg,  yelling, almost understated,

“Arrgh! I been shot, nigga!”

Now it is serious. There is gunfire.  We will be shot. The police will be here, I am holding. I will go to jail. The counter guy still has my id, and one of my friend has disappeared.

And all of a sudden, I am calm. Zen. I interfere the counterman before he escapes, and he returns my ID.

“Game’s on the house.”, he tells me.  I catch my friend before he tries to get out through the back door, grabbing him by the scruff and telling

“NO! We are leaving together through the front.”

And we do. Calmly, quietly, all three of us, walk right out the front not 30 seconds before the police storm right in. We walk past the body of the man shot out front, and say nothing til we reach the car. We found out later another victim was found shot  in the room just behind the door my friend was trying to leave through.

1 dead, 3 wounded. A violent end to a violent place.   But It was a historical night for us, truly one of the better stories we have. The telling of which is always made better when presented alongside of our suitable souvenir from that night that sits on desk even now, as I write this.

The 8 ball.

Taken off one of the tables, by my friend , to be used, if needed,

As a weapon.

Last Game


Posted in Art, Bars, nightlife, San Francisco, Special Places on June 29, 2009 by Jenner Davis

this picture was used without permission. shhhh....

When I was 16, I decided I was going to be a bartender, much in the same way idealistic little children decide they’re going to be firemen or astronauts. The only thing that gave my aspiration an advantage is the fact that most children don’t spend a lot of time hanging out in space, or loitering around fire stations, where as I already spent much of my free time in bars, so it was not such a far-fetched notion that I would someday tend them. And lo, at the age of 21, my dream was realized.  For the next 7 years, I would proudly sling suds at a few different establishments. But nowhere was I more proud to do so than at the Odeon.

The Odeon was a three-ring circus ran by a bunch of misfits with a penchant for the theatrical,  under the celebrated ringmaster Chicken John.  Featured , nightly, were acts that would have otherwise never found an audience, as no self-respecting venue would ever book the likes of “Monsters of Ukulele!”, or host something called “Porneoke”.  (well, not if they wanted to make money.) So many talented artists were given a chance on that stage they otherwise would not have had, and so was I.

Cornmo, monsters of accordion tour

I don’t know what possessed Chicken to hire me.  I had relatively little experience, and looked fairly plain compared to the other seasoned showmen working there.  (Not to mention I had never once been to Burning man.) Perhaps he thought I had potential, or he may have sensed that I needed that place as much as it needed me.

Or maybe it was just dumb luck.

Either way, I felt accepted, and was proud to serve alongside my brothers,  doin it, as we were, for the cause.

I learned many things there, team work, showmanship, how to run a bar off the books, how to paint signs…

I learned that the best place to light a cigarette is off the tongue of a fire-eater, and that nothing is as surprising as a snowball to the face.

I learned what it felt like to be part of something that matters.

Chicken John for Ask Dr. Hal

The Odeon is long gone now, and although its successor “The Knockout” is a fine establishment, it is of course not the same. I was not present for the last hurrah, for I always run from goodbyes. One of my few regrets. So I’d like to take this time and tell you all, Phoenix, Flash, Ben, Robyn, Ena, Gene, Nevis, and most of all Chicken,

Thank you.

*Bring up the house lights and cue the band!*

Ladies and Gentlemen I also wanna thank Dr. Hal and K-rob! YO! David Cappouro! Big thanks to Brian Doherty, Chris Carney and Eric Cash! Lemme hear it for Jascha, Sean Hayes, Zoli, Chloe, Justin and the Bike Rodeo and the BUS!  Give it up for the Odeon Cocaine All-Stars Band! And last, but not least, thank you gentle reader, thank you and good night!

No! Applause!!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.